[dropcap]A[/dropcap]S Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim will feel slightly aggrieved at the manner of his side’s 3-1 defeat to Valencia in the midweek Champions League qualifiers, with a big ask for the Principality outfit to overturn the deficit at the Stade Louis II.
Although the Spaniards started the brighter in Wednesday night’s game and took advantage of the absence of key injured duo João Moutinho and Layvin Kurzawa, the Ligue 1 outfit acquitted themselves well for prolonged periods of the clash at the Mestalla.
The visiting defence certainly did not cover themselves in glory for Los Che’s goals, but from an attacking perspective Monaco look like they have the weaponry to get back into the tie.
Although Portuguese playmaker Bernardo Silva looks like a player with a bright future in the game, it was the French club’s youthful striker Antony Martial that caught the eye once again.
Still only 19 and finding his feet at the top level, the sprightly attacker looks to have all the raw attributes to follow in the footsteps of a host of illustrious countrymen.
Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet made their names at Monaco as young, purposeful forwards; Martial’s style of play and bravery on the ball has similarities to the former Arsenal and Barcelona striker in particular.
Although Monaco have a track record of producing top youngsters from their academy, the current brightest prospect took an alternative route to end up in the Ligue 1 side’s first team.
Martial’s presence in the Stade Louis II outfit’s side is the result of their newfound financial wealth rather than the fruits of their labour, as the attacker was poached from domestic rivals Lyon two yeas ago.
After coming through the ranks of the Stade de Gerland club, Martial was introduced to senior football as a fresh-faced youngster and his potential was almost immediately evident.
However, unlike in the cases of the rest of a golden generation of homegrown stars such as Nabil Fekir and Alexandre Lacazette, Lyon relented in Martial’s case and allowed the player to depart.
Monaco signed the Massy-born star for a €5 million fee in 2013, despite the fact that he had only made three Ligue 1 outfits for Lyon at that point.
The investment on such an unproven player has reaped dividends though, with talk in the European press this week that financial heavyweights Chelsea are preparing a blockbuster bid for the 19-year-old.
Over recent years Monaco have had proven strikers in their ranks such as Radamel Falcao and Dimitar Berbatov, but their departures have cleared the way for Martial to become the main man and designated number nine in Jardim’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Although capable of operating on a flank, the teenager has showcased that playing centrally gets the best from him and that he can develop into a feared striker.
Against Valencia, Martial went toe-to-toe with no-nonsense home centre-half Shkodran Mustafi and showed that he will not shirk the physical demands of playing as a striker.
His blistering pace made him a constant threat on the break, while his movement off the ball bamboozled the Valencia back four on a number of occasions.
To back this up, his ability to beat players when in possession and his trickery on the ball act as the cherry on the cake, with Martial really unlucky not to have been awarded second-half penalty after a supreme piece of play in the home side’s box.
The youngster will be tasked with delivering goals to his excellent individual performances and he looks odds-on to usurp last season’s tally of 11 strikes;
A feature at French age-grade levels from under-16 through to his current place in the under-21 squad, there is little doubting that Martial is a future full international – whether Euro 2016 on home soil comes too soon for him next summer remains to be seen.
However, alongside fellow Lyon youth product Lacazette, France look to have a scintillating strike pairing for the future, with the sky the limit for Martial and his considerable abilities.
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